Alden Ehrenreich On ‘Cocaine Bear,’ The Future Of ‘Solo,’ And Staying Mum On ‘Ironheart’


It’s been five years since we’ve seen Alden Ehrenreich in a movie. The last one was, believe it or not, Solo: A Star Wars Story. A production that was notoriously fraught, seeing original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller leave the project, only to be replaced by Ron Howard. (By the way, rewatching Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s a lot of fun.)

So, I’ve always wondered how Ehrenreich felt about this. Think about it, it’s like any job really (well, much much more public), but when he signed on he thought he knows who his bosses would be. Then that wasn’t the case. When taking a job it’s normal to say yes to something because you like your boss. At this point, after all that, if they made more Solo stories, would Ehrenreich even be interested? Also, it’s pretty interesting Lord and Miller are producers on Cocaine Bear.

Elizabeth Banks’s Cocaine Bear is gory and funny and, frankly, a blast. When drug smugglers ditch cocaine over Tennessee, the head of the smuggling ring (Ray Liotta) sends his sad sack son (Ehrenreich) and his pal (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) to go find it. But, there’s one problem — a bear is eating the cocaine and the Bear really likes the cocaine.

Ahead, Ehrenreich tells us all about the cocaine bear. Doesn’t tell us much at all about his upcoming role in the MCU’s Ironheart, and tells us if he’d be down for more Han Solo adventures or not.

Alden Ehrenreich: Nice to see you. How are you?

Oh, my team just won the Super Bowl, so I’m in a really good mood.

Oh, nice! Congratulations.

Speaking of Missouri, a good portion of this movie was set in St. Louis circa 1985. You are at a dive bar and I’m thinking, if this is really a St. Louis dive bar in 1985, there would be Falstaff beer signs. I remember this from when I was a kid. A new defunct beer. And we get a wide shot and there it is. Even the small details in this movie are great.

Yeah, yeah! Well, they had to turn an Irish pub into a bar in St. Louis, and they were good. They were good.

So I’m curious, when was the first time you heard the words “cocaine bear”?

I’ve now heard them a lot. The first time was my agent calling me to tell me that this movie already was happening. Already in that first conversation you could feel the absurdity of it and that was part of the conversation. That was part of what was attractive about it, was just how zany and wacky and audacious the whole premise is.

Oh, I just assumed, because we all know that story with Solo, but you worked with Chris Miller and Phil Lord before. I just kind assumed they called you.

No, I knew they were a part of it and then I talked to Liz Banks first. And then Phil and Chris and I got together, just kind of generally, and had dinner and they came to my theater space and we talked about the movie then a little bit. I wasn’t in the movie just yet. But yeah, no, so I talked to Liz first.

I’m curious how it goes with Chris and Phil at the time. They basically hired you on Solo and I assume you wanted to be a part of it because of them. Then they wind up not directing it. I’m curious if their attitude was, “hey let’s finally do this.” Because last time you didn’t.

I mean, I’ve always gotten along so great with them and that was one of the real pleasures of that experience. And so it was really special to be able to go and do that again. We really have a great bond and got pretty close. And I shot my first scene – that bar scene was the first scene in the movie I shot. And I knew they were coming to Ireland, but I didn’t really know when. I walked out, we filmed that scene. It’s kind of a big introductory scene and it’s an emotional scene, whatever. I walked outside, it was raining, and it was this little town pub in the corner in this beautiful little Irish town. And they were standing there in the midst of this big set. And it was such a great moment to be back on set with them in this fun, zany kind of way. It really felt like a homecoming in a way.

And obviously, this is Elizabeth Banks’s movie, but like you said, with that history, now you get to actually do some work together with those guys.

It added a special dimension to it and they were really clear with me about that, which was very nice of them. They were like, it was her idea for you to play this character. That came from her, which was very flattering and made it more of a welcoming thing.

I saw it a couple of weeks ago now. I wasn’t expecting it to be as gory as it is, but it’s like fun gory; horror movie gory. Where you’re kind of cheering the whole time. It’s really a fun time.

Good. I’m so glad to hear that. I think that’s one of the great gifts of this movie is we’ve all had this crazy last few years and we’re all in different, to different extents, out back in the world again. And this feels such a great movie to go gather at a movie theater and have this rip-roaring time at. It’s a great movie for that.

Sadly, Ray Liotta’s not here anymore to experience this. I got to talk to him for Many Saints at Newark and I brought this movie up because it was filming and he seemed very excited.

No, he loved it. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that I got to work with him, and especially now. Liz had such a great set and he came and he really seemed to be having a ball being a part of this. I mean, he really was having, I think, a really good time. And so it was really nice to be able to work with him and see him have so much fun with it.

Why is this your year? You’ve been doing Brave New World, but this is your first movie since Solo. But you had Fair Play at Sundance and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer coming us. And you’re joining the MCU with Ironheart.

Yeah, yeah. I think some of that is just interesting timing. Cocaine Bear was the first thing I filmed post kind of vaccine era. And I had such a good time and it was the first time I’d done a job that was kind of a few months long. And I’ve told her this, it really got me back in the love of going off and feeling like I could just go do a movie here and do a movie there. And so some of it is just timing where I worked for two years straight basically. And just back-to-back stuff I’ve never done before and now it’s all kind of coming out in a row, which is really gratifying.

And then some of it also was on the heels of this experience. I was like, yeah, I guess it had been five or six years since I had done something that wasn’t a year-long, in a way. So it was like, oh right, I can go do this movie for two months and not miss my closest friend’s wedding. Or I can be in things a little more often because I remember now that this is what normal-size movies feel like. And so it just got me excited and I had a good, really good time.

So right on the heels of this, I was in Ireland and we got the thing for Fair Play and had the conversation with Chloe Domont. And at first, I was like, well usually I like to take time off between stuff and whatever. But I was like, No, I really like this story. So kind of went right into that and then right into Oppenheimer. And then the second I finished Oppenheimer, I directed a 15-minute movie that I wrote. And then while I was in prep for that, I gained 20 pounds for it. And then while I was in prep, I got Ironheart, so I had to lose 20 pounds in two weeks. And then I went in and did Ironheart and then I’m back and now it’s time to start releasing these. So it’s very, very, very grateful to the fact that we’re on the other side of this pandemic. We’re back at work and it’s great to be acting again and making things.

My first physical during the pandemic my doctor was like, “lose the pandemic weight you gained.” Which I did, but yeah, no bread.

No, bread is a big thing.

I always knew that, but I didn’t realize really how bad bread is for this kind of stuff.

Yeah, it’s a big part of it for sure. For sure.

Who are you playing in Ironheart?

I can’t say.

Is it a secret?

It’s a secret, yeah.

Okay. Are you excited?

It’s a great character and there’s a fun element to it that I can’t talk about. It was a really, really fun role.

Is it someone we know?

I can’t quite say that, but kind of.

I’m not trying to put you on the spot. I’m just happy you’re going to be in this.

I am, too. Yeah, the show is really cool. It’s really an interesting corner of the MCU. It’s funny, it’s very touching, and emotional in a lot of ways. And it’s basically about this black girl growing up in Chicago and her experience and it’s really, really interesting.

So here’s what I’m wondering. You seem very happy right now and you’re in all this stuff and as you said you don’t have to spend a year on something. So there’s always chatter about more Han Solo adventures. But I’m always wondering, I know the movie wasn’t the easiest thing, would you even want to do that? Or are you like, “You know, I’m good.”

No, I actually don’t feel that way. If it was the right iteration and the right thing, I would love it. Because, for me, in the first movie you watch him become Han. I got to be Han Solo for the last 15 minutes of the movie, maybe. And so being Han Solo is the fun part. And I have no fucking idea if there is ever a world where any of that happens, and if it happens, great, if it doesn’t, whatever. But it was really great to … that’s what’s appealing to me about it because in a way they built this sort of origin story for when he becomes who he is, but then that guy is the guy that’s really fun and it’s a ball to play that character specifically.

I can almost pinpoint for me when that kicks in. When Han’s trying to bluff a whole army is coming. Then the Millennium Falcon just flies away, leaving him.

[Laughs] Exactly. Exactly! So the first movie, you’re watching him turn into that. So getting to be, I think the original vibe of all that stuff was almost more like an Indiana Jones idea where you would get to watch this guy be that guy over the course of a few movies. Anyway, so that’s appealing about it to me is that character and getting to do that. But who knows?

Also, I think people are getting tired sick of lore and what it all means. I think the lack of that hurt it at first because it doesn’t tie into a lot of the other stuff. And I think it’s gained stature a lot since it came out. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that.

I definitely feel that. I’ve always felt like there was this love for it and I definitely feel that now. And yeah, I mean it really all comes down to that character.

Are you still shocked at how the Hail Caesar line has stuck around?

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[Laughs] Yeah, it’s so fun. I grew up as such a film lover and a lover of certain lines that stuck around from certain movies. And I just look at my favorite experiences in the world are when I get to work for great filmmakers. And so that experience was so great. My character was so wonderful, and the Cohens are geniuses, so it was great. Yeah, that makes me very happy.

And heaven forbid this happens, but a hundred years from now, when you pass on, that’ll be the headline of the obituary. That line will be the headline.

[Laughs] “Would that it’were so simple.” Yeah, exactly. Right.

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